Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Autumn thoughts and wines

Joelle Thomson’s wines of the week are published every Friday, with occasional postings early – such as this week’s one…

Vintage is in full swing here in Martinborough as I sit at my desk on a sunny, windy, sometimes cloudy, other times blue sky autumnal day. And Mother Nature really can be a bitch sometimes. The weather is living down to its reputation of being so dry that crops are naturally reduced by Mother Nature when she is at her harshest. The harvest this year is significantly smaller than many winemakers would like it to be. Grape bunches are small across the most planted varieties – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling, with Sauvignon Blanc being the only one I haven’t seen or tasted yet in my travels around the vineyard as both writer and walker. Two winemakers today me told today that their Pinot Gris bunches came in at 25 grams instead of the more typical 90 grams. Ouch. As for the quality, it could be on the up thanks to such small volumes but the jury remains out until the proof is in the bottle. Enough of the cliches. These wines of the week are exceptional and all from Martinborough’s rapidly expanding Te Muna Road area from the old Julicher Vineyard. This property is now owned by yachtee Brad Butterworth, four times winner of the America’s Cup as the tactician for New Zealand and winner of the Whitbread Round the World Race, among many other seafaring accolades.

2019 Butterworth Sauvignon Blanc $30

This is an incredible wine made entirely from estate grown fruit and since only 1600 bottles were produced by winemaker Martin Bell, it’s worth beating a path to find some of your on. Grapes were whole bunch pressed into old French oak barrels, the youngest being five years old. The wine is very concentrated, very dry and has lively acidity with great balance which adds zingy appeal to this great white from Martinborough.

2020 Butterworth Dry Riesling $28

Dry Riesling is gaining prominence here in New Zealand, as it is globally, and this one was picked late, towards the end of Covid on 10 April 2020.  It is technically speaking an off dry wine with 6.5 grams residual sugar, which is beautifully balanced by refreshing noticeable acidity, both giving the wine a lingering, lovely and lively finish.

2018 Butterworth Pinot Noir $55

Pinot Noir clones Abel, 115, 777, 667, 5 and 6 (a mixture of Dijon and Pommard clones) all go into this wine and all come from the Ranger Block, the new name for the home block at the Julicher Vineyard site. Winemaker Martin Bell matured this Pinot Noir for 11 months in French oak, 25% new. It has great fruit weight and concentration, which Bell says comes from both the clones and because it’s a barrel selection of his best Pinot Noirs, so a combination of winemaking methods finds its way into this lovely Pinot Noir.